Thursday, June 11, 2009

Clotheslines

Clotheslines are beautiful things.


Charles Curran painted these sheets drying on the line, using the cloth as a back projection screen for the cast shadows of the nearby foliage.

Clothes dried on the line smell fresher. Hanging laundry floods the soul with joyful light. And it uses free energy.


So why don’t we see more clotheslines in America? The energy and appliance companies ran a relentless series of ads in the 1950s and 1960s brainwashing people into thinking clotheslines are ugly or old fashioned. Many communities have laws against clotheslines. You could get fined for hanging out your laundry.

24 comments:

dyanna said...

I like your blog.I'm waiting for your new posts.

dt said...

I relish the warm seasons, shirts and sheets and colorful things soaking in the sun. I need to remember to change the line every couple years as cotton clothes lines tend to age and break. Some of my friends even hang laundry in winter, in the basement where the furnace keeps things warm and dry. I've never thought to draw hanging clothes, fabrics are tough enough, but it will make an interesting challenge for a Sunday afternoon.

Steve said...

Hey, when I read this earlier, I thought there was a sentence about marching on Washington covered in clothespins. Am I experiencing early morning visions again? I was ready to go, using only wooden clothespins made in Maine.

Beyond that, thinking back to yesterday, I have to say that hanging clothes on the line is a fully two-handed exercise.

When doing camping/paddling trips, it's great to have a lay-over day by a river or lake and do the laundry; a clothesline in the wilderness. Sargent's watercolor A Tent in the Rockies shows the luminous possibilities.

Erik Bongers said...

A law against clotheslines ???

In fact, clotheslines play an important role in a scene of a story that's somewhere at the bottom of my to-do shelf. I currently consider this to be the most important scene of that yet-to-be story. A scene that my hands will start getting all sweaty about when I'll start drawing it.
In fact, their getting all sweaty right now. I mean, how on earth do you draw white canvas on a...white canvas? (ok, linen on paper to be precise, but you get the point)

But this post is about politics, and I'm getting sidetracked again.

The other day, the actor Benicio Del Toro stated that "when a actor makes more money than a doctor, a teacher or a policeman, you know something is really wrong." A well timed statement as around the same time the Screen Actors Guild reached agreement on a 3 percent raise for actors.

Art and politics?

I firmly believe in Ars Gratia Artis and I'm against the idea that art MUST make a statement, but nevertheless, I really like the idea that artist can give a different view on things and help people to see things from another perspective and get 'inspired' to see life differently that what they are so used to.

Beth said...

I love throwing my clothes in the drying machine & coming back to find them dry. No spending the time hanging them up, or taking them down, or grabbing them in a hurry when it starts to rain, or not being able to do your laundry when you need to because it's raining.

Larry said...

We hang clothes all year long in our basement and in the yard in the summer. Not only is it green but your clothes don't shrink. I must admit that seeing white sheets in a picturesque country setting is not the same as seeing bra's and boxers hanging in an ally or over a shower rod in the bathroom.

Julian Tejera said...

I may be a young'n at the ripe age of 22, but I have fond recollections of growing up in a small urban town in NJ. My grandmother used to have one long clothesline that my grandfather rigged up like a pulley outside in the backyard. When it was laundry day in the summer, me and my younger cousin used to run through and around them as it only added to our imaginative playful romps around the yard. During the winter and colder days, that same pulley system was rigged in our basement. I get a warm tinge of nostalgia thinking about this now. Its sad that the drying machine has taken over. Although more laborious in nature, the clothesline dried clothes did always smell fresher whereas clothes in the machine can come out smelling like dirty socks if they're still damp and left in there for hours. C'est la vie.

Jean Spitzer said...

I guess it depends on whether you're the one doing the hanging of wet clothes or the one running under the clothes--and laughing.

Jesus Estevez said...

clotheslines is some thing that brings me to my childhood, I remember my mother hanging the clothes in the patio . I just to love to hide behind them, mostly the sheets, I love when the wind moves them around and their translucency with the sun makes them alive, it certainly is a good theme for a painting

jean said...

Clothes lines are a lot of fun when you're a kid. I remember running around them, too, ducking and weaving through the sheets and towels, especially in Germany, where we had communal clothes lines. The boxers and bras didn't really exist, except to mystify the child's mind.

For all that, I'm glad I don't have to hang clothes out. It's a lot of work compared to a dryer. I'd rather be writing about it.

kev ferrara said...

Apparently, billowing underwear lowers property values.

Johan Derycke said...

Not where I live, fortunately!
coz we don't have a dryer

ashton said...

Birds can't poop on your clothes if you put them in the dryer.

Jon Hrubesch said...

It's funny you should have this post. A co-worker/friend just brought up this subject last week. He just moved and began talking about using a clothes-line but said that he thought that there was a city ordinance against it. I had one for a short time in my last house and my wife and I used it a few times as did the neighbors who also had one across the alley. We had to remember to use fabric softener or the clothes ended up feeling stiff. Maybe that's just a water problem thing though. My mother also used one for many years in the summer months. Yes, very nostalgic to think about.

Dan Gurney said...

Synchronicity. I really enjoy using a clothesline. The enjoyment is probably related to my love of sailing, kites, flags, and banners—really anything that blows in the wind. I was thinking about doing a post on the subject, but decided against it because I couldn't figure out a way to make a post on this subject seem unweird.

How did we learn to be ashamed of something so sensible and pleasurable? The ad agencies working for the appliance companies certainly knew their business!

Steve said...

Keep in mind, Dan, in the words of Jim's post, those ad agencies "brainwashed" us. No doubt the washing was done with potent detergents followed by a blinding spin cycle that gave way to high heat in the dryer. It makes brains shrink.

Kaos said...

You will have to excuse me (and my poor english), but in AMERICA (a whole continent made of three subcontinents) one can see plenty of clotheslines. Just go to mexico, Brazil or Chile (where I am from) and you will see lots of people who use free energy to dry their clothes.

The piont is that people are manipulated to think that "if it doesn't use electric power and is a 'made somewhere device' it's not progress". Let's face it, USA has a whole culture in wasting energy and other resources (just look at your car industry), so it's not surprising that you don't get to see many people drying their clothes in the wind... of course, in modern cities doing so can result in smog-dyed shirts.

What really bother me, as non-US american, is that your global marketing culture is transforming the lifestyle of other cultures. So people start to believe they NEED stuff like electrical dryers and dishwashers or the will not be "modern" or have a lesser status.

Sad but true.

I hope that now, with the progressivelly dimminishing fossil fuel reservoirs, your culture will re-value the old ways of making some things (I'm not pretending everything old-fashonned is good) and the rest of the world will see that the way into progress is not to waste, but to use well.

Mary Bullock said...

No politics please.

Mary Bullock said...

Sorry, I am referring to the post from Kaos.

James Gurney said...

Mary, I guess I'm responsible for introducing politics into the discussion, but I think Kaos makes excellent points. I probably should have said "convinced" rather than brainwashed. And Steve, you weren't getting morning visions--I made a couple of edits.

Since this is an art blog I should have made the case for clotheslines on aesthetic grounds. On top all the green things they do for us, I really think they're beautiful. But I also think telephone poles and cell towers and garbage trucks are beautiful, too, in a weird sort of way, so mark me as crazy.

I really appreciate all the childhood recollections of DT, Julian, Jesus, Jean, and everyone else.

Kaos said...

I'm sorry if I politized this too much... it was not my intention to bother anyone.


By the way, I too think some things that usually are not considerated beautyfull to have more than just a certain charm. I like, for example, those poles wehere lots of cables come together, cross each other and mix. It kind of reminds me of people, lifes and other concepts.

greyskyeyes93 said...

What interesting timing this post has. My hubby just put up the fantastic retractable 40' line I bought from Amazon. We have an ordinance by our HOA against clotheslines but my clothesline is only visible by one of my neighbors and that's barely. It's totally retractable, so when I'm done, it's hidden from prying eyes. I think those ordinances are foolish and very counter the current "green" thinking. I grew up next door to my depression era grandparents. My grandma hung out clothes all year round. She finally bought a dryer in 1989, dying less than two years later. She hardly used it, even then. We used to help her hang out and take in clothes. And, of course, we ran in and out of the hanging sheets. I love the way line dried clothes smell. Thanks for posting this!

Emilie said...

long live clotheslines! http://www.laundrylist.org/

Nancy Bea Miller said...

I agree, soul-satisfying and good exercise too (if you have three active boys!) There are definitely times (rainy weeks for instance) when I give thanks for my electric dryer, but it gets much less use than formerly!
Food for thought: do you ever see paintings of men hanging out the laundry? It always seems to be women, even in contemporary paintings.